Wednesday, September 25, 2013

American Exceptionalism: Yesterday and Today

President Obama recently reasserted the concept of "American Exceptionalism" in defending the decision to attack Syria, if it failed to come around on chemical weapons.

American Exceptionalism is an old concept, first suggested by Alexis De Toqueville a couple hundred years ago.  Some 60 years ago, a history professor named David M. Potter revived it, arguing that what made us exceptional was the economic abundance of our nation.  His 1956 book "People of Plenty: Economic Abundance and the American Character" eloquently made that case. "America has long been famous as a land of plenty, but we seldom realize how much the American people are a people of plenty—a people whose distinctive character has been shaped by economic abundance. In this important book, David M. Potter breaks new ground both in the study of this phenomenon and in his approach to the question of national character. He brings a fresh historical perspective to bear on the vital work done in this field by anthropologists, social psychologists, and psychoanalysts."

I would argue that today, American Exceptionalism in the Western World is characterized by:

1.  An ever-widening gap between the top 1% and the rest of our population.

2.  Lack of universal health care.

3.  The most guns and gun-related fatalities per capita.

Yes, we Americans remains exceptional.

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